Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Does It Get Easier?

I remember when my son was a tiny newborn.  It seems like yesterday, but it was four and a half years ago.  He was a sweet, easy little baby to have around.  I didn't know that at the time, though.  I was so overwhelmed by the feelings associated with first-time motherhood.  Things that dominated my mind were such as:  "Am I doing this right?"  "Is the formula too hot?"  "Is the formula too cold?"  "How long has he had this dirty diaper?"  "What if I drop him?"  "Does he know who I am?"  "Is he still breathing?"

I bumbled along, wondering, worrying, and going one hour at a time.  When my son was almost a month old, my best friend arrived for an overnight visit.  I had never been so glad to see her.  Having a six-year-old and three-year-old herself, I knew she would be able to shed some light on what I was doing right or wrong.

"You're doing fine, you know," she said halfway through the visit, sensing my uncertainty.  Those words of reassurance made a haze dissipate and the sun shine down into my living room.

Toward the end of her visit, I was reflecting on the lack of sleep (which really wasn't an issue for me, since my baby started sleeping through the night at 11 days old. However, the complications after my C-section made up for it.), the stress of not knowing what I was doing . . . well, I can't even remember now what it was that I thought was so hard.  But I thought this motherhood thing was tough, and in retrospect, I want to laugh at myself for asking her that question.

But my friend didn't laugh.  She thought for a moment and said, "It gets different.  I won't say easier.  As soon as you get everything figured out, something new will come into the picture."  Bless her heart, she didn't want to scare me.  What I have realized over the last four and a half years is that it gets both easier and harder with each passing year.  She was right - it's just different.

I never thought I would be such an emotional basket case over my child changing schools at age four, but I have been.  We have said goodbye to the wonderful preschool where he has been for the last three years, and are gearing up for "big kid school" in the fall.  The adjustment for me will be having him away from me for a full school day, five days per week.  It will be a big change from our three day per week, 9-12 routine.

On the other hand, I think he will thrive, and I would never want to hold him back.  I'm excited for him, but it's just breaking my heart that he will turn FIVE at the end of this year and leave behind the "little years."  For years now, we have woken up in the morning whenever we felt like it (usually sunrise for him). The years where we hang out in pajamas while we read books or watch Curious George, eat snacks and play with toy cars, or get in the car to go putz around in Target at 10am . . . are over.  I know we still have this summer, and other summers.  But it feels like more than just a new chapter in the book.  It feels like a whole new volume in the series.

There were days I thought this time would never end.  There were days I prayed for school to come sooner, so that I could go about my business and get other things done.  But while it seems to drag day by day, the years are flying past us.  Where did they go?  While I would never want to re-live him getting his little 20-month-old head stuck between wooden rods in a chair back, the scary ER visit with the high fever, or some of the harrowing potty training moments, I wish I could go back and visit earlier times just to drink in his littleness and his sweetness.  And I wish I could take back the times I yelled at him in frustration.

But, I can't.  And as my friend pointed out to me so long ago, I have found that it never really gets easier, just different, on a good day.  And yes, sometimes it is harder.  She just texted me a few moments ago and said, "Hang in there!  I'm not going to tell you it gets easier, because it doesn't."  I know she's right.

Today, I feel that complicated motherly conundrum: simultaneous joy and mourning.  I am mourning the end of a "little" phase of his life.  My baby is no longer a baby.  But I am joyful and amazed by the wonderful little boy he is becoming.  I would never, ever want to hold him back.  But it sure is hard to say goodbye to the "little years."

I'm going to inhale every moment of this summer with him like it's the last breath I will ever take.

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